A WOMAN IN BERLIN (Max Färberböck, 2008)

Sometimes, one watches a film and cannot help but think of another—or of more than one other. Yesterday, watching Károly Makk’s Another Way (1982), which is mediocre, I thought of Makk’s tremendous Love (1971), but also of another film, by another filmmaker, Max Färberböck, that succeeds brilliantly where Makk’s Another Way fails, in correlating political and sexual oppression regarding a lesbian couple: Aimée & Jaguar (1999). Now watching another film by Färberböck, Anonyma—Eine Frau in Berlin, again brings the much better Aimée & Jaguar to mind. But Anonyma isn’t about lesbians; it is about female Berliners being raped by the “good guys”—Soviet soldiers during the last months of the Second World War. (U.S. soldiers also raped, and Eisenhower had them summarily executed—a non-solution.)
     Based on the anonymously published journal of a German female international correspondent, this film, for which Färberböck and Catharina Schuchmann provided the script, centers on relationships with two Soviet officers, first, a lieutenant, and then a major, that Anonymous cultivates for protection from rape. The end of the war has reduced Anonymous and countless others from bourgeois security to poverty’s tatters. Keep in mind, moreover, as in the case of Islamic countries today, at that time rape brought condemnation to the victim in Christian countries as well.
     It is ridiculous that the film is drawing praise for “exposing” a situation that Anonyma’s book already has exposed; just as ridiculously, this praise is increased because Färberböck refrains from sensationalizing the material, as though every filmmaker is a Spielberg. Of course, he doesn’t sensationalize the material! Färberböck’s superficial chronicle—it doesn’t even investigate the motives for the rapes—grinds slowly and carefully as a result, with Major Andreij Rybkin’s ambiguous fate—Siberia, or execution—barely registering at all.


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